West Indies success stories

Eye On Sports
Stabroek News
August 19, 2001

Compared to one year ago, West Indies cricket can be described as enjoying something close to a rags to riches experience.

In Africa, even if Zimbabwe and Kenya can be described as two of the weaker teams in international competition, West Indies have rebounded from the misery of previous overseas tours by sweeping aside all opposition including India for an impressive 100 percent four-title win record.

Even at the Under-19 level, the regional team is surprisingly getting the better of England in alien conditions where they already carted off the one-day title and are one draw away from winning the Test series for a clean sweep of the tour.

It is now clearly evident that an increasing number of fans are re-awakening their interest in the West Indies' positive resurgence. A greater number of radios are now been carried around in the streets and offices, not to mention the increased television ratings of GTV 11 and WRHM in Georgetown and LRTV and RCA, as the new found success is beginning to re-impact on the nation's cricket population.

Not so long ago during the humiliations in South Africa, England and New Zealand few cared much about following the team's progress ball by ball.

Of all factors one can think of as responsible for this turnaround in fortunes, few can rival the increased exposure regional players have enjoyed in competition and training in recent times as the West Indies Cricket Board is beginning to reap the benefits of policies it implemented not long ago, in no time.

Chris Gayle, the test team's most prolific batsman in Africa and who could now be considered one good enough to hold his own against many more international bowling lineups has benefited from playing in an extended Busta Cup season this year and quality competition against South Africa `A' which toured the Caribbean last year and for the many representative teams that opposed the senior South African Test and ODI touring squad.

For someone gifted in shot making and sharpness of eye, but whose flaws prevented him from succeeding at the top, Gayle has had enough cricket under his belt to convince himself to work harder on his technique and is now blossoming into the quality player his talents always promised.

Also Daren Ganga, the other part of the now successful opening pair, has had a lengthy apprenticeship in domestic competitions and for the many representative West Indies teams eversince his debut tour of South Africa in 1998.

So has been the development of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels who are now coming through with regular level competition.

While Cameron Cuffy has found a late surge of motivation to give credence to the talent he promised long ago, Colin Stuart's bowling is showing signs of rapid improvement with every match he plays for Guyana, the West Indies `A' and the Test team, along with every coaching clinic he has been mandated to attend.

At the Under-19 level if the name Devon Smith hardly ever made headlines before, he is now one of the most talked about young West Indian batsmen for his phenomenal scoring for West Indies Under-19 against England Under-19 in the tour which the regional team has already won the limited overs title and are on the verge of clinching the Test series.

Smith happens to be one of juniors who was exposed against South Africa `A', played for the Windwards in the Busta Cup and who has attended clinics eversince he helped the Windward Islands to their historic regional Under-19 title win last year. Seam bowler Kenroy Peters, is the other half of the Windwards act that has spearheaded the Windies Under-19 success story in England.

These developments I am certain would not have been possible without the expansion of the Busta Cup from five matches per team to a maximum of 16 and a minimum of 14 from last year, the creation of the West Indies `B' and Development teams, the increased number of Test, one-day and representative team assignments, the many coaching clinics conducted by regional and foreign coaches and last but not least the establishment of the academy.

We still have some way to go towards attaining similar success of the teams of the 1980s, but the road has been made clear by those innovations implemented by the WICB.

Thus there must be no deviations from the set course as we have no choice if we want success at the highest levels.